Singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne has released his sixth studio album, Ouroboros, via RCA Records. The eight song, 39 minute LP was produced by My Morning Jacket's Jim James and recorded at La La Land Studios in Louisville, Kentucky.
In a press release, the recording personnel was revealed:
LaMontagne plays the electric guitar leads while James plays rhythm and provides harmony vocals. They’re joined by Dan Dorff on keys and vibes, Kevin Ratterman on Moog and Dave Givan on drums, all James regulars, as well as multi-instrumentalist Seth Kaufman, the lone carryover from the Supernova sessions, on bass and slide.
In a postcard sent to a small number of fans, Ray shared some comments about the album:
Ouroboros is an album musically unlike any I have recorded previously. It did not make itself known to me in sections, sessions, or moments carved out of the clutter of every day life. It presented itself as the simple question:
“Will you follow me?”
Of course I couldn’t say no. I had to follow. What else could I do?
I had nothing with which to record the journey that was taken. The album is merely an attempt to recreate, from memory, the landscapes, the colors, the sights and sounds that were experienced. I only thank God for the vividness of those experiences, and for the ease of their recollection.
I realize that in my invitation for you to listen, I am in fact asking something of you as well; for listening is not a purely passive act. Listening takes effort. To listen is to participate.
There can be no conversation without one who is first willing to listen.
And so I both invite you to, and ask if you might, sit, quiet your surroundings, quiet your mind, and listen as I present to you the question that was first presented to me:
Will you follow me?
Ouroboros is indeed unlike anything LaMontagne has done. Since his first album in 2014, his sound has progressed from folk and alt-country to a more psychedelic spacey-rock feel. You could sense a shift coming in 2014's Supernova, and on this album he's taken that to the next level with great results.
The concept and construction of the album also seems more detailed and cohesive than anything Ray has done in the past. Very consciously split into two parts, each song is labeled "Part One" or "Part Two." The two parts stand on their own, with "Part One" being more oriented toward loud rock & roll and "Part Two" being more gentle.
LaMontagne's exploration into a psychedelic landscape on Ouroboros feels natural. His vocals are hushed and sincere, further enhancing the intimacy heard in the songs. "Homecoming" is a meditative song of sorts, with gentle piano playing and a relaxed rhythm, and "Hey, No Pressure" settles into a deep groove with reverb, thus drawing comparisons to a Black Keys / My Morning Jacket sound. The collaboration in the studio with Jim James also shines through, lending a gritty, well-polished touch on rock tracks like "The Changing Man," which flows into the otherworldly Part One closer "While It Still Beats."
"In My Own Way" kicks off the second part of the album in elegant style with gentle sound effects, soft acoustic guitar strumming, and timely electric guitar notes. "Another Day" is another soothing piano driven piece, and "A Murmuration of Starlings" will draw you in with bluesy guitar playing and spacey keyboards, at times sounding like a combination of several songs from Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. The song blends seamlessly into the breathtaking finale, "Wouldn't It Make A Lovely Photograph." Ray shows he's got a sense of humor, singing repeatedly "You're never gonna hear this song on the radio... " before asking, "but wouldn’t it make a lovely photograph?" as a final statement.
There isn't a weak song on this album (even though that final statement is a bit of a head-scratcher). Our favorites are "Hey, No Pressure," "In My Own Way," "Homecoming," "The Changing Man," and "A Murmuration of Starlings."
Ouroboros is currently available on Amazon. You can also stream the full album above for free, via Spotify.
Ray has also announced 2016 tour dates where he'll be on the road in support of Ouroboros. His backing band on the road will be My Morning Jacket members Tom Blankenship, Carl Broemel, Patrick Hallahan, and Bo Koster.
For the latest music, news, and tour dates from Ray LaMontagne, check out his Zumic artist page.